RWC #11: All Blacks end 24 years of hurt in Auckland

The long, long wait for a second World Cup comes to an end against France in 2011

Richie McCaw lifts the Webb Ellis Cup after New Zealand beat France 8-7 in the 2011 Rugby World Cup final. Photograph: Getty

Richie McCaw lifts the Webb Ellis Cup after New Zealand beat France 8-7 in the 2011 Rugby World Cup final. Photograph: Getty

 

When New Zealand captain David Kirk became the first man to lift the Webb Ellis Cup, on home soil in 1987, it seemed inevitable it was the start of an All Blacks domination of the tournament.

In fact if you’d have said New Zealand would have to wait another 24 years and until the Rugby World Cup came back to their own shores before they would win it again, you’d have been laughed at.

But, as the years and tournaments passed New Zealand found that second title more and more elusive.

In 1991 they were done by the genius of David Campese at Lansdowne Road. In 2003 Australia repeated the trick, knocking their Antipodean rivals out in the semi-finals again, while in 1995 Laurie Mains’ side had no answer to the momentum of an entire nation as they lost to South Africa in the final.

But the two most difficult defeats for New Zealand to accept, the ones which were the biggest shocks, were dished out by France, who knocked the All Blacks out in the 1999 semi-final and 2007 quarter-finals.

It was then with trepidation New Zealand went into the 2011 World Cup final against Les Bleus, the side who had a knack for spoiling the party the most.

The game, in theory, should have been more of a coronation than a contest. New Zealand had already beaten France comfortably in the group stages, while Marc Lièvremont’s side had been beaten by Tonga and crept past 14-man Wales in the semis.   

As is so often the case though, things didn’t quite go to plan for the hosts. In front of 60,000 at Eden Park France attacked with verve and abandon. New Zealand, the world’s finest exponents of running rugby, were forced to defend for their lives.

And defend they did. A Tony Woodcock try and a penalty from fourth choice outhalf Stephen Donald provided the eight points which won them an ugly but enthralling encounter.

The All Blacks were dogged, determined and above all pragmatic. They needed to win at any cost, and they did.

The brilliant Richie McCaw lifted the trophy into the Auckland night. 24 years of hurt were over.

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